I’ve just returned from a week in Germany, on the jury of the Joseph Joachim Chamber Music Competition in Weimar (see photo of the splendid Music Conservatory where it all happened).
There were groups from most corners of the world. Many of them were living proof of the benefits of cross-European study. Although there were a few groups whose players came from the same country, it was actually more common to see names from three or four different nationalities. This is because since the 1980s it has been easy (and cheap, if not free) for people from mainland Europe to come to study in London, and for Brits to study in Amsterdam, Madrid, Berlin, Vienna and so on.
In Weimar there were a couple of groups ‘from London’, but in fact their members were (for example) Swedish, Dutch, Bulgarian and German as well as British. All have been able to take advantage of Erasmus and other reciprocal schemes which facilitate study across Europe. The result is a lively mix of people who have developed mutual tolerance as well as a wider spectrum of musical styles and approaches.
As Brexit approaches, and with it the prospect of these schemes closing a) to British students wanting to study in the EU and b) to European students wishing to study in the UK, I must say I spent a lot of the week contemplating the young chamber groups with a sense of poignancy, almost a feeling of sorrow for something about to be lost, or at any rate made harder.
Some of the best music-making was by groups with diverse nationalities. That cannot be a coincidence. Offering young musicians a taste of life in other countries and of other cultures’ attitudes to music has been hugely beneficial. They make friends and forge working relationships across Europe. It seems to me that without exception they become more open-minded.
Let us hope that whatever happens, ways will be found to keep open these educational pathways which lead to mutual understanding.